Cross-disciplinary team launches public conversation about new way to manage ecosystems
A cross–disciplinary team is calling for public discussion about a potential new way to solve longstanding global ecological problems by using an emerging technology called "gene drives." The advance could potentially lead to powerful new ways of combating malaria and other insect-borne diseases, controlling invasive species and promoting sustainable agriculture.
Representing the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston University, the Woodrow Wilson Center, and Arizona State University, the team includes scientists working in disciplines ranging from genome engineering to public health and ecology, as well as risk and policy analysis.
The idea is not new, but the Harvard–based researchers have now outlined a technically feasible way to build gene drives that potentially could spread almost any genomic change through populations of sexually reproducing species.
"We all rely on healthyecosystems and share a responsibility to keep them intact for future generations," said Kevin Esvelt, PhD, Wyss Institute Technology Development Fellow and lead author of two papers published this week. "Given the broad potential of gene drives to address ecological problems, we hope to initiate a transparent, inclusive and informed public discussion—well in advance of any testing—to collectively decide how we might use this technology for the betterment of humanity and the environment."
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